Here's to the building blocks of health and vitality...in your cup!
By now, you're likely to have heard of 'nutrient density' and the wonders of stock and bone broth.
Someone you know or follow has probably been singing the praises of this marvellous liquid magic and plying you to come over to the dark side...
Well, they aren't wrong and if you've not yet dipped your ladle into the world of homemade stock and broth, allow me to welcome you!
Lets start by briefly reviewing a few basics:
We literally ARE what we eat. Our bodies are initially made, maintained and regenerated from the broken down snacks and meals we consume. Meaning that the vast majority of the time, we want to be enjoying healthy, nutrient dense foods if we want our bodies to be maintained at optimum efficiency and function
Nutrient density is a catchy term - and what the heck does it mean? It means that the plants and animals grown for our consumption are made up of what THEY eat. We won't go down this rabbit hole too deeply but consider that if the soil your veggies are grown in happens to be deficient in vital key micronutrients or microbes, your plants will also be deficient in those same key nutrients. If the animals you consume are fed from foodstuffs depleted or deficient in those choice minerals, vitamins and other such micronutrients, they won't magically generate a store of these in their bodies to nourish you with - instead, you'll still find you need additional support from elsewhere.
Sourcing nutrient dense bones for your broth (by ensuring your purchased animals lived on pasture where they were able to forage nutrient rich foods for themselves) can help, but any bones are better than none!! I know, it sounds like I'm speaking out of both sides of my mouth, but I'm a firm believer in working with what we've got and improving from there, where we can. Even conventionally raised animals will have bones for broth that provide you with trace minerals, protein and collagen you'd otherwise not easily get in your diet.
Shall we once again "Jump to Recipe"?!
Makes 5-6quarts of broth
1 chicken carcass, plus any backbones and necks you've tucked away in the freezer from previous meals (bones and residual meat still attached after carving and enjoying with the family)
6 or more chicken feet, (ask for these from your local farmstead or chicken farmers, they add amazing collagen!)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 large carrots, clean and unpeeled
2-3 stalks celery or lovage
1-2 onions, skins left on
2-4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1-2Tbsp dried sage leaves
1/4cup fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
If you want to add in gizzards, livers or chicken hearts, take an extra moment and brown these on both sides in a 350'F oven for about 20 min, resulting in a much more complex colour and flavour profile
In a large stockpot with a heavy bottom, place your carcass, bones and feet and splash with the apple cider vinegar. Let sit for about 20-30 min. The vinegar helps the minerals in the bones release more readily into your broth.
Cover these bones with cold water until submerged and put on medium heat. Let it come to a gentle boil and skim off any bubbly 'scum' that might come to the surface. This scum, if left in the broth, along with any meat on your bones will make your broth more cloudy, but won't harm it in the long run. (terminology hint: Broth made with meat still on the bones is called, you guessed it, broth; bones alone result in Stock).
Add your veggies, peppercorns to the pot and turn the heat down to low. Simmer with the lid on for 8-12 hours or so.
If you're afraid to leave the stove on overnight, you can transfer this whole concoction to a slow cooker or instant pot and run it on low slow cooker setting overnight - again with the lid on. Low and Slow is the name of the game here: we are looking for a gentle disintegration of the components of the birds, and a continuous infusion of nutrients into the water resulting in a rich, flavourful broth.
Now darlings, here is a key element: We do NOT let this broth go on and on for days hoping that the longer it simmers, the richer the broth we will get. Oh No!! I'm afraid that doesn't work. There is most definitely a point of no return in broth and stock making my dears. If you let it go too long, it will end up tasting like you boiled a boot with a dash of rubbery old parsnip. Yuck!! So, DO keep an eye on your brew. Taste it often and see what you think - just remember you've not added salt yet and you'll think it's most certainly missing something.
Once your pot is richly coloured, smelling amazing and tasting close to brilliant, add the sage and parsley and let simmer another 15 min or so. Then take it off the heat and let it cool to warm.
With tongs, remove the largest chunks you can of both vegetable and bone, then put the remaining liquid through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the smaller bits. I tend to put the strainer over a large bowl and either slowly pour directly from the pot, or use a ladle which is more precise but takes a bit longer. You can pick through your chicken carcass and save any meat bits for even more amazing meals - have you ever used these bits for chicken enchiladas or pot pie?
You can season to taste with a good salt now, or when you open each jar for your recipe. I go back and forth on this as I see benefits to both. Salted is easier to pop a jar lid and enjoy as a hot cuppa, unsalted means less tasting and thinking when cooking up some yummy meals...you do you babe!
Now you get a choice in how you let it cool and then scrape off the fat. You can do this in the large bowl before dishing your broth out into jars or containers for refrigerating or freezing; or you can put it all back into your pot to bring it up to temperature after de-fatting. This second brief simmering will add additional flavour and will slightly thicken it for pressure canning which will give you a shelf stable broth. (You'll need to have a pressure canner for this, which is not the same as a pressure cooker dear ones). We'll do a session on pressure canning soon!
Now you get to use this amazing health food in all of your favourite recipes or enjoy a mug full of steaming broth!!